Over the last few years there has been a large shift in the workplace. Many jobs that used to require employees to work in the office every day have moved to allowing for employees to work from home.
Although some employers were starting to experiment with these work arrangements before Covid-19, the pandemic really forced employers to adopt these arrangements quickly and for as many employees as possible. As the workforce became more and more used the having the conveniences of not having to go into the office, it became more common for employers to allow employees to work remote just because it fits their lifestyle better.
If you are considering becoming an air traffic controller you might be wondering if you’ll have the option to work from home. After all, many people would think that there’s no reason why you can’t have access to the same information and communication via technology at home. So, let’s take a look at this question.
Can air traffic controllers work from home?
No, air traffic controllers cannot work from home.
As you may have expected to learn, being an air traffic controller is a very sensitive position. The safety of thousands of passengers depends on ATC’s doing what they do without issue. Let’s take a closer look at why this isn’t a job that can be performed as well from home as from the office.
The first issue that you would run into if trying to have air traffic controllers work from home is that of the radar and flight plans being shown on computers in their home in real-time.
This information is vital to what ATC’s do at work and having a lag, interruption, or service outage could lead to a very dangerous scenario.
In most other jobs, if the internet was slow you would just load e-mails and other software a little slower than usual. For an air traffic controller they might not be able to an accurate radar or the flight plans of aircraft. This would be unacceptable.
Air traffic controllers use several types of communications systems throughout the day that must be available and working at all times.
One of these systems is for voice communication. ATC’s need to be able to talk to key people as they perform their job functions. This includes using phone lines very frequently. When working in an office, there is the ability to make these phone lines redundant for security and safety reasons. That means that if for some reason the phone line is down, there is another one to take over and the job function is still able to be completed like normal.
This would be very difficult to set up in the homes of ATC’s all over the country. How would you prevent a phone outage from affecting the home of an ATC? How would you have a back up to that phone line?
The other type of communication is direct communication.
ATC’s talk to each other throughout the day as they guide aircraft to their destination. There is something about being able to just walk over (or yell) and ask someone an important question. This can be much more challenging if everyone is working from home.
Direct communication is often the most efficient method of communication and most ATC’s would not want to lose this.
Issues at Home
There are several reasons why performing the tasks of an air traffic controller as effectively at home as in the office would be difficult if not impossible.
One of them would be the distractions. We all know how hard it can be to work from home when it’s hard to focus. There’s the needs of your family, the distractions of home, the ability to get up and take care of other tasks, etc.
While this might work great for some jobs, air traffic controllers need complete focus and concentration on the job. There are often several screens to monitor at the same time and you can’t just get up and walk away.
There are also very specific procedures for handling situations as an air traffic controller. If there is some kind of emergency or a reason that an ATC can’t perform their tasks, someone else can step into their workstation and make sure flights continue to get the support they need.
Having to track someone down on a moment’s notice to take over for you is not a realistic expectation if working from a desk in a spare bedroom.
Equipment Set Up
The technology set-up for an air traffic controller is impressive. There are computers, several screens, keyboards, communications equipment and more. All of the equipment is set up in a certain way to allow the ATC do perform tasks as easily as possible.
Even the lighting in the room and positioning of the equipment is important.
Setting things up in this manor may not always be possible at home. Not everyone has enough space and a dedicated area to have as effective a technology set up as they need.
Future Remote Work Options
While working from home is not an option for an air traffic controller at this time, there are many companies that are working to create technology and solutions to make this happen.
Like most things when it comes to technology, it really comes down to “when” more than “if”.
When that day comes, it will not only provide the opportunity for employees to cut down on commute time and have better work flexibility but also allow the market to take advantage of the efficiencies that coming with having a remote work force.
Air traffic controllers have one of the most important jobs in the entire aviation industry. What they do every day is what allows for aircraft (and their passengers) to arrive safely at their destinations.
Performing this job at the highest level of efficiency and accuracy requires that air traffic controllers are on location with access to all of the right equipment while being free of distractions.
While doing this job from a secured secondary location is possible in some scenarios, this is not a job you’ll be doing from a laptop at home any time soon.
If you want to learn more about possibly becoming an air traffic controller, make sure to read more about it at the FAA’s website here.